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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Salud Mental y/o Mental Health? Researchers Investigate Media Language Preferences and Mental Illness Stigma Among Latinx Teens

A new study led by Dr. Melissa DuPont-Reyes, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health, investigated the role of media as a source of stigma in the Latinx community by analyzing media language preferences for movies, television, radio & music among Latinx adolescents from Texas.

The study, published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, analyzed self-reported assessments of mental illness related knowledge, positive attitudes and behaviors, as well as participant reactions to two adolescent vignette characters described with symptoms of bipolar and social anxiety disorders. Researchers found that adolescents who reported a preference for Spanish media scored lower on mental illness knowledge and positive attitudes and were more likely to want greater social distance from peers with mental illness compared to those with English only media preference. This pattern was replicated in the vignette outcomes where those with any Spanish media preference versus English-only more often believed the characters were bad people and desired social distance from them. These effects held for all levels of Spanish-language media preference — little, mostly or only — and across gender and income levels. In contrast, family language and social preferences had no effect on any of the mental illness stigma outcomes.

These findings point to potential differential mental illness-related messaging in Spanish vs. English mass media as media language preferences is a strong indicator of the type of mass media that these teens see. Latinx adolescents with Spanish media preference are at risk of not receiving anti-stigma messaging or info about help-seeking through their preferred media, a salient point of intervention for combating mental illness stigma.

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